A report from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) warns the UK’s food system is “broken” and must be overhauled to “feed a growing global population in a less damaging and more sustainable way”.
The MPs urge the government to act to advise consumers on the environmental and health benefits of eating well. They say measures should include ensuring cooking and gardening are on the curriculum in all schools to give children skills that mean they are less reliant on processed food.
The health benefits of meeting nutritional guidelines, such as eating five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day and avoiding too much salt, would be worth almost £20 billion a year, and prevent 70,000 premature deaths a year.
England has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe, with more than 60 per cent of adults and a third of 10 and 11 years overweight or obese, increasing the risk of conditions such as type II diabetes and some types of cancer. Those numbers are predicted to rise to over 50 per cent of adults and 25 per cent of children by 2050 if no action is taken. Diet-related chronic disease already costs £7bn a year when taking into account treatment costs, state benefits and loss of earnings.
The Sustainable Food report follows an inquiry by House of Common’s Environmental Audit Committee into the country’s food supply system.
The report recommended that the Government should consider extending rules which protect youngsters from junk food marketing on children’s television to cover all media viewed by children including the internet. It highlighted research that found 75% of websites featuring products high in fat, salt or sugar had links to social networking sites that were designed to “appeal to children through the use of language intended for, spoken by or directed to children”.